On a cold, wet and dull Saturday I had the amazing opportunity to meet a true genre influence and figure of rock star cult status, Mike Monroe. Hanoi Rocks were playing at Nottingham’s famous Rock City as part of their final tour. The sound checks had been done and the band headed back to the hotel to chill out, get some food and prepare their make up before playing for the last time, songs from their glittery glam pop rock career that scoped a couple of decades and also a brand new and catchier than ever album. I met up with the immaculately dressed and amazingly well aged Mike Monroe to see if this is the end, or a new beginning?
Tell me about your influences and what started you off with the whole rock n roll scene.
I was born in Helsinki, Sweden then I lived in London for a few years during the early Hanoi days, I moved to New York City when I started my solo career and lived there for ten years. I came from a very musical family, my grandfather was a classical musician, in fact a cello player, my father was a wood player, and my mother was very musical too…making me start taking piano lessons when I was five. But I got into rock n roll when I was eight years old. I saw Black Sabbath on the TV playing a live show in Paris and that made me want to be a singer like Ozzy. Around that time my father would be bringing in rock records like the ‘Love it to death’ album by Alice Cooper, and when I saw them I thought it was just so cool and decided that’s what I wanna be. It made me want to create a real cool rock n roll band. Slade were the first band that I saw live and they were just great! Geordie was my favourite band then, with Brian Johnson (who sings for AC/DC now). Their first album 'Hope you like it' was great. I listened to all the greats of their day - Sweet, Nazareth, Pistols, The Ramones, The New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders especially, The Ruts, The Clash. So I wanted to make my own band and mix all these cool rock n roll influences and my own personality and love of the straight edge hard rock in ya face rock n roll.
How has the industry changed over the years and how have you been dealt with?
The record industry has changed a lot but the world has changed a lot too. For me though as a self-sufficient musician and in a band it really hasn’t changed that much. We’ve had some bad breaks and some tragedies. I haven’t had that much good luck with the industry over the years and I haven’t been fortunate enough to have the ‘perfect’ people, and we’ve never had the support to make us much bigger than what we already are, but I do feel that I have still managed to make some good records.
If we'd had better people behind us, and I’m not beating my head against the wall about it, we could've been bigger and I would've liked to have had better luck with that side of things. But one of the cool things about Hanoi though is that we aren’t mainstream and some of the coolest bands I know aren’t the biggest and it's good that we' ve retained that vibe.
How does it feel to be one of the main influences of a complete genre?
I like to hear that I have influenced some cool bands that have their own sound, but I’m often tied in with the whole glam scene, with all of the poster bands and hair cut bands. To me, those bands just seem to have missed the point. They are more into the ‘look’ and think that they're just wild and wacky rock stars because of how they look and that’s such a cliché. They don’t realise that you don’t have to be an empty head to be a rock star, so when I’m told, “Mike, you’re the godfather of glam rock” and “you started it” I just say “Hey, don’t blame me!!!" Okay, they sold a lot of records and stuff but that doesn’t mean that their music is that meaningful. But to be attached to such bands as Guns n Roses, is great. They're heavier than Hanoi and we've worked together a lot over the years. Me and Axl dueted on the ‘Aint it fun?’ song for the Spaghetti Incident and I played some Sax and Harp on their Use Your Illusions album. Me and Slash did the soundtrack on the Coneheads movie, and we’ve played together a few times. So to be part of that has been amazing.
Having worked with these people and spending many years around rock stars, who have you met that makes you star struck?
I met Little Richard. I asked him for an autograph and the guy has such an amazing presence that I felt completely star struck. I've only asked a couple of people for an autograph - Alice Cooper, Les Paul, but Little Richard was just fantastic. You know, I’m a fan too, so I get the same feelings.
This tour is the last tour for Hanoi Rocks, why have you decided to end it and what is next for you?
Yeah, this is our last tour in the UK. We still have some to do at home and in Japan but we will actually break up at the end of the year. After the rebirth of the band in 2002 we feel that we've taken this as far as it can go. Me and Andy McCoy started this again and have had fun seeing what we can do after all these years. But now, since the last album, we've not written much. Also, on a professional and personal level we just aren’t connecting the same way anymore. We've decided to do this while it's still fun, but we know that it has come to its end. I don’t have the luxury of being able to put my feet up and not carry on, so I’m going to get my solo work done and record an album of my own material which is more of a defined style, harder rocking and punkier. Also, I’m going to tone down the image cos i'm kinda fed up with the glammy glitter and stuff. Every time I get changed all the sequins rip my hair out!!